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Interview: Manny Jacinto on ‘The Good Place’.

Interview: Manny Jacinto on ‘The Good Place’.

Is there any doltish character more beloved than Jason Mendoza on TV currently? Thanks to actor Manny Jacinto, everyone's favourite lovable dummy is a highlight of each and every episode of 'The Good Place', blessing us with unforgettable quotables such as, "I'm too young to die and too old to eat off the kids menu! What a stupid age I am," and the ridiculously wise, "Apples you eat their clothes, but oranges you don't? Forget this plan."

Coup De Main caught up with Jacinto in Los Angeles recently while he was filming Season 4 of 'The Good Place' to discuss the benefits of us all embracing our inner Jason, as well as his work on the upcoming 'Top Gun' sequel...

...[Jason] even though he’s a dummy and he doesn’t necessarily know how to explain it, he still has that emotional intelligence.

COUP DE MAIN: Your character Jason Mendoza in ‘The Good Place’ has such a child-like view of the world - he’s so naive but enthusiastic and positive. Do you think the world would be a better place if we all embraced our inner Jason from time to time?
MANNY JACINTO: Yeah, I think so. I think Jason kind of embodies the kid in all of us and I feel like with a lot of the stress and pressure that people feel nowadays - whether it be from work or family or politics, especially here in America - if we just go back to that childlike nature, I think it’d be a lot better for us and a lot less stressful.
CDM: We’re surrounded by so much pressure externally now, so it’d be nice to go back and have fun at the same time.
MANNY: Yeah, for me it’s like trying to go back to that moment when you’re a kid when you had no responsibilities, and you don’t have to worry about anything.

CDM: You’ve just started filming season four of the show, which must be so exciting! What’s it like going back in for the fourth time playing Jason and working with the cast?
MANNY: It’s funny, I’ve talked to a number of people about this who’ve been on shows, and sometimes I panic because I feel like I’m not working as hard. I guess it just happens when you play a character for a number of seasons, you’re able to kind of inhabit him almost instantaneously, you don’t have to do the work as much as you did in the first season. So then I start to panic and I’m like, “Am I slacking off? Am I being lazy?” But it’s become easier to think the way Jason thinks, or react the way Jason would react.

CDM: When you guys first started on the show you mentioned that you, Jameela Jamil and William Jackson Harper, called yourselves the babies of the show. Do you feel a bit more comfortable now on the fourth season?
MANNY: Absolutely not! <laughs> I think we’ll always be the babies, and Kristen and Ted will always be the parents, kind of guiding us. But I think we’ve definitely grown, now we’re maybe three years old or something.
CDM: In the toddler phase!
MANNY: Exactly, learning how to speak! Crying to get what we want.
CDM: Ted Danson and Kristen Bell are just like, “Guys! Let us sleep!”
MANNY: Yeah! But I think if anything we’ve become a lot more close and comfortable enough with each other that we can just do a lot of silly things.

CDM: I love that your hip-hop dancing made its way into Jason’s character - it’s amazing that your own dancing became part of him. Do you think that any other parts of yourself made it into Jason’s character?
MANNY: This is a bit dark, but his kind of sadness, or empathy. I don’t want to say broadly out loud that I’m an empathetic person, but I think that kind of infuses into Jason a little bit. You know, even though he’s a dummy and he doesn’t necessarily know how to explain it, he still has that emotional intelligence, if that makes sense.
CDM: He definitely wants the best for everyone around him. Like when he cares about someone I feel like he really cares about them.
MANNY: Yeah, and I think I have that to a fault sometimes, that can translate into either loyalty or blind love and going into something blind just because you love this person. But yeah, I think that kind of leaked into Jason a little bit.

CDM: At the end of the day, despite all of Jason’s naivety, he just wants to do good. Do you think that good drive within Jason is a really important aspect of his character?
MANNY: Yeah definitely, and I think it almost cancels out his obliviousness, and I don’t think we’d be able to stand this guy if he didn’t have that want to do good. He’d just be a jerk. He wouldn’t be such a relatable character - it’s definitely a big part of him. Even though his actions don’t necessarily translate into the best of results and there can be a lot of consequences to what it is, but I think bottom line is he does want to do good and do good for the people around him.

CDM: Do you have a favourite Jason moment on the show to date?
MANNY: I always love acting with Eugene Cordero who plays Pillboi. We had never met each other previously, but whenever we have scenes it just clicks instantaneously and we’ll play around and riff, and I can barely keep a straight face when I run with that guy.
CDM: I can imagine there’d be some good blooper reels after the filming of the show.
MANNY: Yeah, I think our producers definitely want some sort of spinoff or something like that.
CDM: That would be really cool, a spinoff show with you guys.
MANNY: Two dummies from Florida.

CDM: That iconic video of Mike Schur running through the end of Season One with you, D’Arcy Carden, Jameela Jamil, and William Jackson Harper is one of THE best videos ever. Are you expecting there to be any more massive spoilers/plot twists where you’re going to have a reaction filmed for?
MANNY: Oh yeah! I literally had some good scenes with D’Arcy this first week of filming, and there are some things that I did not know about, that the director kind of threw at me. I think D’Arcy knew, but I didn’t know yet.
CDM: You were in the dark!
MANNY: Yeah! And I’m just like, “What, wait, what’s happening? Why? Ohhh!” And it makes a lot of sense. I had the option to sit down with Mike Schur and maybe have that conversation to see what’s going on, or what’s going to be going on until the end of this fourth season, but I think I like being an audience member and seeing how it reveals itself as the table reads go.
CDM: You kind of learn more about the world as you’re going through it, rather than knowing everything in advance.
MANNY: Yeah, and especially with this character, his arc reveals itself as it progresses and I think there is no benefit to knowing what’s in the end, rather than just being present and acting in the now.

CDM: If you could make your own episode of 'The Good Place' which just purely followed Jason, what would you want to happen in it?
MANNY: <laughs> Oh man! I’ve always wanted Jason to have a concert moment with a boyband - and I think he kind of had a taste of it last year, where he actually kind of triumphs. So some sort of performance with *NSYNC or the Backstreet Boys.
CDM: Did you see Ariana Grande did that in her Coachella set?
MANNY: Yeah, something like that!
CDM: So you could replace Ariana Grande - it could be Jason headlining Coachella!
MANNY: Exactly! Something like that. That’d be super fun.

CDM: If you were in control of The Good Place and The Bad Place, what tasks would you make earn the most points / lose the most points?
MANNY: If I gave the rulings? I think the biggest points you can earn - for me, this is just off the top of my head - should go to good teachers that really mentor kids and look after their talents. They should get a bazillion points. I think celebrities should get the most negative points.

CDM: You’ve mentioned you’d like to get into writing or directing in the future. Is that something you’d still like to pursue?
MANNY: Yeah, I mean, I think there’s a lot of laziness, but then again if you really think about it maybe the laziness is just some sort of fear, at least the way I’ve translated it, or talk to myself about it. I think it is just the fear of looking dumb and putting something out there. I remember as a dancer I’d create a piece of choreography, and my heart would beat so fast once we made the video, and it would be there for the public to see.
CDM: It’s like you’re sharing a piece of yourself with the world.
MANNY: It is, very much so. That’s why I have so much respect for creatives and for people that can create something out of nothing and be able to put it out there. It is definitely something I’d like to pursue. I was just thinking about it this morning, the people that have created such a long term marathon-like career in this industry are those who’ve been able to pivot into different avenues in the industry. Like, going from actor to producer to director, and I’d definitely like to explore that.

CDM: You’ve been cast in the sequel to ‘Top Gun’ which is very exciting. How have you found working on a film set compared to a television series? Is there one you prefer?
MANNY: ‘Top Gun’ is a beast of a film in terms of its scale - everything is slowed down, like with the show we would shoot five scenes in a day, and with ‘Top Gun’ you might shoot maybe half a scene the whole day, or the whole week, just because it’s just such a bigger scale. I think the bottom line for me is that as long as it’s a creative story that I’m passionate about I can do either.

‘The Good Place’ Season 3 is out now - watch the trailer below…

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